In 2020, Belarus became a country with thousands of detained, beaten, tortured people. In its project ‘I Was Being Lucky’, Belsat TV tells the stories of 21 Belarusians who suffered police brutality.
By the moment of our conversation, Andrey had already granted a dozen interviews to Belarusian media outlets. He cheerfully starts telling his story, goes into specifics. Touching upon the subject of his detention, he gets confused a little and repeats that he still cannot understand why it happened to him and thousands of other Belarusians. On the night of August 12, he was giving a lift to his friends. At the intersection not far from the shopping centre Riga in Minsk, armed people ran up to his car. Threatening them with guns, the men forced each of them out.
“I was confident. I had no doubt. In fact, I thought to the last that they would conduct some check and we would go further, as there were no illegal things in the car. To the last was I sure about that, until we were put on the ground,” Andrey recalls. They started to batter the men during the search. Hydrogen peroxide was found in the trunk, and the finding made the officers believe that the detainees had been getting ready for protests. Shortly before throwing Andrey into a prison truck, an open-faced man in civvies – allegedly the leader of the group – shouted: “He is a rebel!”
Brutal actions continued in the paddy wagon. Andrey was compelled to squat down, and a riot policeman sat on him. “A big fellow weighing about 100 kilos could make jelly of me. I asked him to get off, saying he was too heavy. He remained sitting and began to punch me in the face: „I’m fine, what’s wrong with you?” And he shouted to his mates: “Guys, look what a stool I am having!” Andrey continues. When the driver braked hard, the riot policeman fell down and rolled to the back-end of the vehicle. Then all the officers attacked the detainee: “They stepped on my head and legs. And they were beating me for the rest of the way. I was screaming in pain. Wasting my strength on screaming, I repeatedly fainted; when it happened, they stopped. But when I came to my senses, they resumed battering. I screamed again and fainted, which repeated many times.” The vehicle gradually got filled up, the people were laying in ‘stacks’, one on another.
It is the mad eyes of the officers that stuck in his memory above all else. Now he calls them ‘black spots”. In the prison truck, the riot policemen yelled: “Scumbags, you have no idea where you got to. Welcome to hell!” While Andrey was being beaten, the officers ordered other detainees to sing Belarus’ official anthem, saying that they were making music by striking the blows.
When transferred from one paddy wagon to another, the detainees were brought through the riot police corridor. The policemen ordered them to shout ‘I love riot police!’, promising not to hit those chanting loudly. They beat everyone with their hands, feet and batons. Andrey lost consciousness in the small stuffy cell of the prison truck. He regained his senses when they were near the detention centre on Akrestsin Street.
“I saw that I was lying on the ground. To get me back to consciousness, they threw me out of the prison truck and started battering me. They kicked and batoned me. They made me kneel on the concrete at the fence, with my hands on it. You are on your knees, forehead is against the wall. They walk up and down and beat us from time to time,” he says, and despair can be heard in the man’s voice.
The chain of people against the wall moved slowly when some of them were taken to cells. Andrey was too weak to keep up with the chain, and he fainted. He was beaten again, and finally the man was dragged to a pavillion, where other people who did not even have the strength to kneel were lying.
According to Andrey, the doctor working at the detention centre hardly blinked at the sight of torture the detainees were put to. Ambulance cars finally arrived. The man stresses that the health workers did their best to pick out as many people as possible from that hell, taking three or even four people into each car.
“I was lying and I heard them taking people to the cells, there were inhuman screams. Battering and screaming. I realised that I should do anything not to land up there. Talking to a paramedic, I made mention of my arrhythmia and said I had asthma as a child. I laid stress on health risks. I tried to simulate as much as I could for fear of being left there,” Andrey speaks faster and faster.
He recalls how the doctor gave her phone to three people ‘evacuated’ by her, and they got in touch with their families.
Andrey was dismissed from hospital on August, 26. For a rather long time after the discharge, he felt a great deal of pain when walking and sitting. “All the doctors and nurses came to me to look at my buttocks. The right one was twice as big as the left one,” the man recalls.
He had a forensic medical examination and reported the beating to the Investigative Committee; despite being called in by law enforcers, he is not going to show up.
Get acquainted with our interviewees and read their stories here.